Whenever I get my car serviced, I always bring reading material or my laptop, so that I can do some writing – which is where and what I'm doing at the moment. The waiting room has four large, flat-screen TVs on two walls to insure that all patrons have a good view of at least one of the screens. Two of the screens are showing sports, and the other two are showing The View – with the sound turned up too loud.
Not being a TV viewer, I am periodically shocked, dismayed, and worried about our society when I see samples of what people watch on television. The show, The View, caught my attention because of the annoying screaming and yelling coming from the studio audience – which was predominately women who evidently have no life. Having no life, they flock to watch and scream at female celebrities who get paid way too much to talk about nothing of importance.
I don't understand this mentality – or lack of mentality. It makes me worry about our society. Not only have we now become the fattest society in the world, we appear to be becoming the dumbest. And if you look beyond our deficient education system at the research on our health and health-care system, we are way down the list. We are 24th for infant mortality rate and a host of other disease-related deaths. U.S. Deaths preventable by medical care were 101,000 in 2007, which puts us in last place on a list of 19 industrialized nations. As for broadband, Internet access – we are 23rd in the world, behind such countries as Estonia, Luxembourg, and Qatar. But we are number one in two significant areas. We are able to wage war better than any other country. (We can't win them, but we can wage them). And we lead the world in the per-capita consumption of non-renewable resources.
In June of 2007 a woman from Germany signed my web site guest book, and we began an almost daily correspondence that continues today. Initially I was impressed that her English writing competency was almost as good as the college seniors in my classes. We discussed politics, philosophy, religion, literature, music and a host of other topics. She has read all of Shakespeare, and reads two books a week. About two months into our correspondence, I mentioned I had driven on the German Autobahn years ago, and it was insane. I said I hoped that she didn't drive like that. She replied that she didn't drive. When I asked why, she said she wasn't old enough.
Recovering from my shock at learning she was a junior in high school, I became intrigued at the differences between her and her peers in America. She is not home watching TV at nights, or any other time. After school, and on weekends, she has jobs. She tutors; she works at a horse stable, and spends what little time remains with her boyfriend. She plans on going to law school after she graduates. Her father is a teacher and her mom is a mom. They give her almost total freedom to make her own choices and to decide how and where to spend her time. Occasionally she will spend weekends at her boyfriend's house, and her mom will call her to ask if she is coming home before going to school on Monday. She is better educated, more ambitious, and more mature than 99% of the people I know in the U.S., and she is not yet old enough to drive.
The point of this vignette is that we are increasingly a complacent, sedentary, monolingual nation of people who tend to watch rather than do. We watch sports, soaps, talk shows, sitcoms, movies, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, and reality shows. The hottest thing on computers these days is the virtual world. Software like Second Life now have millions of people living virtual lives in a virtual society – all without having to get out of a chair and actually interact with real people.
There are more English-speaking people in the European Union than in the United States. Sixty Four percent of the population of the Philippines speak English. The 25% of the population in China with the highest IQ's is greater than the entire population of North America. They have more honor students than we have students. Currently about 60,000 Chinese citizens are studying at U.S. universities.
Name this country: richest in the world; largest military; center of world business and finance; strongest education system; world center of innovation & invention; currency is the world's standard; highest standard of living. The answer: England in 1900. Will the answer to this trivia question one day be: The United States in 2000?
Glancing back at The View, it sure does look like it.